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Lecture 2

SOC221H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Scientific Method, Social Theory, Inductive Reasoning

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Shyon Baumann

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SOC221 Lecture 2
Relation Between Knowledge and Empirical Evidence
Knowledge can be produced through social science
Science is a major avenue for producing knowledge - only one form of knowledge
Other forms of knowledge that are not science: philosophy, religion, tradition, etc.
Science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific
method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge gained through such
Method and what that method produces
Is social science really ‘science’?
Yes but there is a clear difference from ‘natural’ science (like chemistry,
biology, astronomy)
Social science deals with people, not things, but uses a lot of the same
Methods between 2 sciences are different (ex. Astronomy you use
method to measure wavelengths and scientific instruments whereas when
we study people we can’t use those methods so we have specific
designed methods to measure what people think and do
We are developing theories that we evaluate with evidence collected through
systemized methods
What are Methods good for?
Without methods, we observe things a way that is more aero prone
Watching the news, it seems that there are more murders than ever before in
Canada? Is this true?
No - over the years, it has been the same (since last 30 years ish)
You need a system to observe
Immigrants are expensive to Canada’s economy. Is this true?
No - you need a system to observe costs and benefits
Social media use is harmless and fun. Is this true?
In order to evaluate that, you need to use a method to observe the use of
social media by some people and non-use by others and compare the
I am not affected by advertising, but other people probably are. Is this true?
Can’t know until you study and observe to validate the observation
Advertisers generally follow laws about advertising. Is this true?
Methods are good for producing knowledge
Much of what we know is based on what we have heard from others in a social
setting. Sometimes this knowledge is wrong.
We also know through direct experience—through observation.
Science offers a special approach to the creation of knowledge through personal
experience by using methods to regulate and structure that experience.

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Incorporates personal experience but regulates it via rules and methods
in a structured way
What are the rules for observing things via interviews, surveys, etc.
Using science to generate knowledge
A scientific assertion must have both logical and empirical support.
Empirical questions ask what the reality is, and demands evidence
Knowledge needs to be empirically validated and make logical sense
Example: Wealth inequality is increasing over time
Logic: Occupational trends, technological changes, trade policies, trends
in marriage patterns, tax policies, all can produce stronger
dichotomization of wealth.
Mechanisms why wealth inequality would be increasing
Empirical support: Tax return analysis and other survey analysis confirms
growth in wealth inequality over time
Evidence that shows the amount of money people make, the rich
people make more and poor people make less
Epistemology, Methodology, and Methods
Vocabulary to analyze, compare and contrast the methods
Refers to how we know what things are like
What we do in this class; studying the reliability and usefulness of ways of
knowing what the world is like
Study of methods - Pros and cons of different empirical methods -
understanding advantages and disadvantages of different methods
Specific data and analysis collection techniques
Surveys, interviews, field research - overall techniques to data collection
Non-Science ways of knowing
Ordinary human inquiry
We learn things through our own lives, personal experience is powerful in
how and what we learn
Allows for mistakes too frequently - inaccurate observations - for
example someone's age or race can be inaccurately observed
Overgeneralization - tendency to generalize based on one
example or observation that one has
Selective observation - prone to paying attention to examples
which confirm what we already think (ex. Details that reconfirm
your existing ideas)
Illogical reasoning - we appear for something to be true when
there is no logical reasoning behind it

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Way things have always been done, so they have a validity and we
accept those things as knowledge
Frequent way to know things - somebody who is convincing, says
something and we believe them
Ex. families are a primary way to transmit knowledge (especially parents
and schools) because they are very authoritative when we are young
Scientific knowledge VS Ordinary human inquiry
Scientific knowledge
Rules and techniques to shape experience which are then looked at with
Ordinary human inquiry
Looked at based on life experience with multiple flaws
Foundations of social research - The Scientific Enterprise:
A systematic explanation for observations that relate to a particular aspect
of life
Ex. Marxism and societal change which is older - now there are more
restricted set of middle-range theories
Newer Issue - potential harmful effects of media to others but not
to self
Third-person effect:
Issue: We are worried that people consume a lot of media and it
can heavily influence them. But most people still consume a lot of
Question: Why are people both worried about the media as a
potential problem AND heavy consumers of the media?
Explanation: People overestimate their own defences against
media influences, but also assume that other do not have these
defences. This is called the third-person effect.
Social theory: What is (de facto) and not what should be (de jure)
Value-free (from Weber):Not valueless but, rather, not letting one’s own
common world view, one’s personal values, distort one’s objectivity
Key: What is and Why it is.
Not lecturing or putting values into research - more so what is going on
and why
Theories are related to data
Theories must have a known relationship to data. We collect and
analyze data to evaluate theories.
Theories almost never have unambiguous empirical support.
More support, more confidence but don’t need 100% support and
data is never 100% in support of theory
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